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Engine covering falls off Boeing plane, strikes wing flap during Southwest Airlines flight Denver takeoff

Engine cover falls off Southwest plane
Engine cover falls off Southwest plane 01:47

An engine covering fell off a Boeing plane and hit the plane's wing flap as the Houston-bound Southwest Airlines flight took off from Denver International Airport on Sunday morning, officials said. 

Southwest Airlines Flight 3695 safely returned to the airport around 8:15 a.m. local time following the incident, and the Boeing 737-800 was towed to the gate, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane was headed to Houston's William P. Hobby Airport. 

The incident could be heard on air traffic control recordings.

"Let's go ahead and declare an emergency for Southwest 3695, and we'd like an immediate return," an air traffic control official could be heard saying on the recording. "We've got a piece of the engine cowling hanging off apparently."

A cowling is a removable engine cover.

The passengers on the flight will arrive in Houston via another aircraft, a Southwest spokesperson said. They're set to arrive about three hours behind schedule. More than 130 passengers were on the flight. 

A Southwest maintenance team is inspecting the plane, and the FAA will also investigate, officials said. 

The plane was delivered in 2015, according to FAA records, and the aircraft manufacturer CFM made the engine.

Southwest had more than 200 737-800 planes as of June 30, 2023. The average age of its fleet is approximately 12 years, according to the company.

Boeing has been under review in recent months after a door panel blew off a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet during an Alaska Airlines flight in January. 

In February, officials from the Federal Aviation Administration said they would step up inspections of Boeing. In a report later that month, the agency said a panel of government and aviation industry experts had "found a lack of awareness of safety-related metrics at all levels" of Boeing, adding that "employees had difficulty distinguishing the differences among various measuring methods, their purpose and outcomes."

In February, passengers on board a Boeing 757-200 described seeing a wing coming apart. In March, a United Airlines Boeing 777 plane lost a tire shortly after takeoff from San Francisco International Airport. Also last month, a Boeing United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Paris was diverted to Denver due to an engine issue

Kathryn Krupnik contributed reporting.

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